Bacon Tomato Risotto


1L Jar of Stewed/Canned Tomatoes
4-6 cups Homemade Stock (I used venison. Beef or Chicken are good too)
1 pound Bacon (I like thick cut)
1 package Mushrooms (I used mixed)
1 large Onion
2 cups Risotto
1/2 cup Cheddar Shredded (I used 5 Brothers Smoked from Gunn’s Hill)
1/2 cup Cream
3 tbsp. Butter (try for grass fed it is way better for you)
Parmesan (For grating on top)


Heat your stock in a small pot so it is steaming but not boiling.

While that is heating, start by chopping the bacon, mushrooms, and onions into 1/2″ slices.

Heat up a small pan for the onions and a bigger one for the bacon and eventually the mushrooms.

  • Add 1 tbsp of bacon fat (or oil if you don’t save bacon fat, but really who wouldn’t) to the smaller pan.
    Then add the onions and cook until carmelized looking (see photo).
    Then pull off the heat and leave until later.
  • In the larger pan just put the bacon in.
    Once it looks like it is getting close toss the mushrooms in with the bacon.
    After another 3-4 minutes pull off the heat and leave for later as well.

Now the fun really begins:
Take the pan with bacon and pour most of the fat into a big pot. I used a stock pot but most larger pasta pots should work. Place it on Med-High heat and add your Risotto grains. Let them heat until you hear some crackling, about 3-4 minutes. 

Now you add ladles of the stock into the Risotto pot one at a time and stir until most of the moisture is absorbed, but don’t worry too much. You just don’t want to dump it all at once, this makes the cooking time faster. It should be about every minute for the first 5 minutes, then you just watch for the bubbles to thicken.

Now once you get it going well and and have done about 10 minutes of this add the jar of tomato sauce slowly, while constantly stirring and let it get back up to heat.

That last part is about another 10 minutes where you continue to slowly add stock. I said in the instructions 4-6 cups and this is why. Sometimes it needs more to soften the grains sometimes it doesn’t, it depends on the risotto. So you can start taking a couple out on a spoon and make sure there is no crunch to them at all.

Once you feel the Risotto is ready, you can add 2/3 of the bacon and mushroom into the pot along with the onions.

Then remove from the heat and add the butter, cream, and cheddar, stirring to incorporate well. 

Serve it up in a bowl or pasta dish and top with a pinch of the bacon and mushrooms and a shaving of Parmesan.


Thai Red Curry Butternut Squash Soup

When we are inundated with Butternut squash in October, we take the time to roast a bunch, puree them in the food processor and then store in freezer bags. This allows us to make use of the abundance and keep the squash ready to use (minus the thaw time, of course). Roasting the squash in the oven brings out its natural sweetness. Once the squash cools down, my daughter likes to peel off the caramelized sugar from the silicon pads we put on our baking sheets.   

We make the soup in a large pot and blend it using an immersion blender, which minimizes the clean-up afterward.

Thai Red Curry Butternut Squash Soup

1 large Butternut Squash (about 2 lbs)
1 Tbsp Olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 Tbsp minced (fresh) ginger
1 – 2 Tbsp Thai Red Curry Paste
4 cups Chicken or Vegetable Stock
1 400 mL can of coconut milk
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cilantro to garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 425℉.

Slice squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place squash cut-side down on a baking sheet (a parchment paper-lined sheet keeps it a bit tidier). Roast for approximately 25 minutes or until a knife easily pierces through the skin. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Scrape out the flesh and set aside.

In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent. Add in ginger and curry paste and cook for another minute, stirring constantly, until very fragrant. Add chicken (or vegetable) stock and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

Puree the soup using either an immersion blender or in batches in a standard blender. If you use a standard blender, be sure to hold the lid down securely when processing the hot liquids! Return soup to the pot.

A couple minutes before serving, stir in the coconut milk, salt, and pepper. Garnish with cilantro.


Asparagus Pizza with Caesar Sauce

During asparagus season, we found ourselves challenged to come up with a new way of using asparagus. Why not try it on a pizza? We quickly decided that an Alfredo-based sauce, rather than a tomato-based pizza sauce, would complement the asparagus better. I recalled seeing a Caesar salad recipe with asparagus, so using the ingredients for Caesar dressing as our inspiration, we made ourselves a delicious asparagus pizza.

Asparagus Pizza with Caesar Sauce

Prep Time: 25 min.
Total Time: 35 min.
Makes: two 12-14 inch pizzas


Two 12-14 inch pizza crusts (recipe here)
10-12 spears of asparagus
additional toppings of choice (we added sliced salami and mushrooms)
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
2 Tbsp butter
2 -3 garlic cloves, chopped (use more if you’re a fan of garlic)
3 Tbsp flour
1 cup milk
½ tsp lemon juice
½ tsp Worcestershire Sauce
½ tsp Dijon mustard
¼ tsp fish sauce
Chili paste, to taste
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Fill a skillet with ½ inch of water and heat over medium high, bringing the water to a gentle boil. Trim the asparagus and lay in the skillet. Cook until bright green and tender-crisp, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan, cool, and cut into 1 inch pieces. Set aside.

Meanwhile, to prepare the Caesar sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat until bubbling, then add garlic and cook for one minute. While constantly whisking, mix in the flour to make a roux. When the flour is evenly mixed into the butter, slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly. Keep whisking to remove any lumps. Continue to heat the milk until it thickens, stirring to prevent scorching.

Add the lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, fish sauce, and Dijon mustard and stir to combine. If desired, add chili paste to taste. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 425℉.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into two 12-14 inch circles and place each on a  round pizza pan.

Divide the Caesar sauce between the two pizzas and evenly spread over the dough. Sprinkle some of the cheese onto the sauce and top the pizza with sliced asparagus and any other toppings you desire. Finish off the pizza with additional cheese.

Bake until crust is golden and crispy, about 10 minutes.

Pizza Crust Recipe

Prep Time: 15 min
Total Time: 1¼ hr
Makes: two 12-14 inch pizzas


1⅓ cup warm water
2 tsp instant yeast
2 tsp sugar
2½ cup flour (all-purpose or bread flour)
1 tsp salt
¾ cup flour (whole wheat or all-purpose), or more, as needed for kneading dough

In a large bowl, stir together the water, yeast and sugar. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the yeast is dissolved. Add the first amount of flour and the salt and stir to combine as the dough begins to come together. If the dough is too sticky, begin adding additional flour until it begins to becomes too difficult to stir.

Turn the  dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Dust dough/work surface with additional flour if too sticky. Place the ball of dough into an oiled bowl and turn to coat.

Cover the bowl with a clean towel and set aside in a warm, draft-free spot until the dough looks to have doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Mushroom and Hamburger Gravy on Mashed Potatoes

Upon opening the fridge and pondering what to make for dinner, we pulled out some ground beef, mushrooms, and potatoes. Dad devised this dish from a childhood memory of sloppy joes composed of ground beef and cream of mushroom soup on a bun. We don’t tend to stock our panty with canned soups, so Dad made a mushroom duxelles instead. We served it over mashed potatoes (grown in our garden last summer!) and the little ones gobbled it up. Everything in a duxelles is finely chopped so that it becomes almost indiscernible from the other ingredients in the pan. The picky eater couldn’t even spot the mushrooms to avoid.

Prep Time: 30 min.
Total Time: 40 min.
Makes: 6 servings

Mashed Potatoes


1 ½ lb potatoes, quartered
¼ cup butter
1/2 cup milk
½ tsp dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

Fill a large pot with salted water, place potatoes in a steamer basket and bring to a boil. Continue to boil until very tender.

Meanwhile, as the potatoes cook you can prepare the mushroom duxelles.

Mushroom Duxelles


8 oz fresh mushroom (we used cremini)
2 Tbsp each of bacon fat and olive oil
2 medium shallots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves (no stems), about 6 sprigs
½ cup red wine (we recommended brandy or cognac)
1 Tbsp molasses
2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
½ cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 lb lean ground beef

In a food processor, process mushrooms into small crumbs. Transfer crumbs to a bowl and set aside. Process the chopped onion and garlic into small crumbs.

Add bacon fat or olive oil to a skillet over medium and cook mushrooms until liquid is evaporated, about 8 minutes. Add the finely diced onion and garlic and the thyme leaves and cook for another 4 minutes. Deglaze the skillet with red wine, scraping off any bits and cook for another 4 minutes.

To the skillet, stir in the soy sauce, molasses, and cream until thickened, about 3 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl. This is your mushroom duxelles.

In the same pan, cook the ground beef until brown. When browned, reduce heat to low and add the mushroom duxelles back into pan and mix it with the cooked beef. Keep burner on low until ready to serve. If the mixture looks too dry, you can add more heavy cream, or if you prefer, some beef stock.

When the potatoes are very tender, drain and return to the pot. Mash potatoes to break them apart. Add the butter and milk and continue mashing and mixing into the potatoes. For a creamier texture, you can add more milk.

Season potatoes with dried thyme and salt and pepper to taste

Serve the mushroom duxelles over the mashed potatoes.

Kid Approved Fresh Tomato and Basil Salad


This recipe has no hard and fast quantities. Instead it’s about the ratio of tomatoes and basil to dressing, and that is a matter of taste. Outlined below is a simple guideline for the salad.


A handful of fresh tomatoes (about 3 – 4 cups of chopped tomato is our normal)
A handful of fresh basil leaves (about ½ cup of chopped leaves)
4 Tbsp mayonnaise  
Fresh dill (optional), to taste
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Add all the ingredients to a bowl and mix together. The tomato juice will mix with the mayonnaise and thin it to a creamy dressing. So simple and so delicious. Best eaten with produce fresh-picked from the garden (or brought home fresh from a farmers market).

Peach Pie: Crust and Filling

In the midst of an unseasonably cold stretch of weather in early January I happened to be looking into our pantry and spied some jars of peach pie filling I had “put up” way back in August; that time of year when baskets of ripe peaches abounded and I sweltered away in the kitchen while preserving the bounty. Now that work is a minor blip in my memory as I stare at the pie filling and imagine the taste of a homemade peach pie.

The recipe I use for my pie crusts is from a Mennonite cookbook. It’s delicious and the dough is easy enough to work with that I’m motivated to continuing improving upon my pie making abilities. As it is, each time I make a pie my techniques is a little better and I have less filling leaking out. Practice makes perfect, I guess. Though my family and I do enjoy eating each practice pie, regardless of how pretty they look.

In the end, the peach pie turned out just as I hoped: a scrumptious slice of summer, something to remind us of what we can look forward to while enduring a cold, dark winter. As we were enjoying our peach pie, my four year old son leaned over and told me he could eat pie everyday for dessert.

Recipe for Peach Pie Filling
(This is taken from Bernardin Complete Book of Home Preserving (2006)). It makes about four pint (500mL) jars.

1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
2 tsp whole cloves
12 cups sliced peaches
2 cups finely chopped cored and peeled apples
2 ⅔ cups granulated sugar
1 cup golden raisins
2 tbsp grated lemon zest
½ cup lemon juice
¼ white vinegar
½ tsp ground nutmeg

Tie cinnamon pieces and cloves into a square of cheese cloth to create a spice bag.

In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine peaches, apples, sugar, raisins, lemon zest and juice, vinegar, nutmeg, and spice bag. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently.

Reduce heat, cover, and boil gently, stirring occasionally, until thickened.

Prepare canner, jars, and lids (here is a great reference for the why and how of preparing jars and lids for canning).

Ladle hot pie filling into hot jars, leaving 1 inch headspace. Remove any air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary by adding hot filling. Wipe rim. Centre lid on jar and screw down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight.

Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, them remove jars, cool, and store.

N.B. While this recipe did not call for a thickening agent, other pie filling recipes do, so I mixed into the filling before putting it into the pie crust 3 tbsp of flour and 3 tbsp Tapioca Powder. It worked wonderfully; we didn’t have any oozing filling.

Recipe for One Double Crust Pie
(This is copied from my Mennonite Girls Can Cook (2011) cookbook. The page for this recipe is my most visited recipe and the book naturally falls open to the page).

1 ⅔ cup flour
¾ tsp salt
⅔ cup lard
4 tbsp cold water

Combine flour, salt, and lard. With a pastry blender, cut lard into flour until the size of large peas.

Sprinkle the mixture with water and stir with a fork in circular motion until there are no more loose crumbs. It may seem too dry at first, but keep stirring.  

Shape the dough into a ball with hands and divide in half.Turn onto a floured surface and use hands to form into a circular shape. Roll the dough out until it’s a little larger than the pie plate, adding small amounts of flour if it sticks (I find it easier to put the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper – it’s a lot easier to pick up the rolled dough and transfer it into the pie plate. After the dough is rolled out, you peel off the top layer, pick up the crust from the bottom and turn it over so that it falls into the pie plate. Peel off the remaining plastic wrap). Trim excess crust.

Roll the dough (if you did not use plastic wrap or wax paper) onto the rolling pin and carefully unroll it into the pie plate.

Brush the unbaked bottom crust with a slightly beaten egg white to keep it from getting soggy.

Fill with fruit filling.

Roll out the second crust a little larger than the pie plate, centre over the filling and trim the edges so you can fold the top crust over the bottom crust. Pinch the two layers together.

Brush top crust with beaten egg white and make several small cuts into the crust for steam to vent while baking.

Bake at 400℉ for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350℉ and bake for another 50 – 60 minutes or until the juice bubbles through the slits.


Kingray, J. And L. Devine (eds.), 2006. Complete Book of Home Canning: 400 Delicious and Creative Recipes for Today. Toronto: Robert Rose Inc.

Schellenberg, L. et al., 2011. Mennonite Girls Can Cook. Waterloo: Herald Press.

Creamy Rhubarb Tart

A friend of mine was looking to pare back her rhubarb patch at the same time that I was looking to expand mine. What a stroke of luck!

We dug up all the roots we could find. In the end, I took home a 65 litre tub full of rhubarb roots. The new home for this rhubarb is a perennial garden bed in the reclaimed filed. The rhubarb is the new neighbour of our other perennial crops – asparagus and strawberries.

I enjoy rhubarb, especially for baking. My all time favourite pie is strawberry-rhubarb. In addition to pies, we also use rhubarb in jams, muffins, loaves and tarts, as well as in a cordial, and even in savoury sauces for main dishes.

A few years ago I discovered yet another recipe for rhubarb – a dessert tart. The tart is one I like to make when fresh rhubarb is abundant. In this recipe, rhubarb does not have to share the stage with any sweet fruit, like strawberry. Instead, rhubarb takes centre stage.

You begin by mixing the crust and spreading it onto the bottom and up the sides of a springform pan.

Next you beat together cream cheese and sugar; and then beat in the egg and vanilla. Spread this mixture over the crust.

Now it’s time for the rhubarb! The chopped stems are mixed with some sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Into the oven it goes to bake and the delicious aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg fills the kitchen.

After the tart has cooled, and just prior to serving, dust some icing sugar on top. Enjoy! We sure do.

Prep Time: 20 min.
Total Time: 1 hr  10 min.
Makes: 12 servings


½ cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar, divided
1 cup flour
1 pkg. (250 g) cream cheese, softened
1 egg
½ tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. Ground nutmeg
½ lb. (225 g) fresh rhubarb, cut into ½ in. lengths
1 tsp. Icing sugar

Preheat oven to 425℉.

Make the crust: beat butter and ⅓ cup of sugar until light and fluffy. Add flour and mix well. Spread onto bottom and up the sides of a of 9-inch springform pan.

Make the filling: beat cream cheese and ⅓ cup of sugar until blended. Add egg and vanilla and mix well. Spread over crust. In a large bowl, combine remaining ⅓ cup sugar with spices and toss with rhubarb. Spoon over cream cheese mixture.

Bake for 10 min. Reduce heat to 375℉ and bake for another 40 min. or until centre is almost set. Cool completely. Run knife around rim of pan to loosen tart. Sift icing sugar over tart and serve.

Original recipe published by Kraft and available at

Butternut Squash Loaf

We grew some hefty Butternut Squash this summer. Six of the squashes topped 6 lbs. All of that delicious squash couldn’t be wasted! We cooked some up into a soup and then began the process of storing the rest. We froze both roasted, pureed squash and cubed squash. We also pressure canned eight quart jars.

Grandma presented me with a recipe for Pumpkin Loaf and I’ve seen recipes with pumpkin and Butternut Squash substituted for each other. Why not try baking with Butternut Squash? I grated the squash and used it in place of pumpkin in the recipe (see below).

The result was a dense, moist loaf that tasted delicious on its own or topped with butter. My girls preferred to spread strawberry butter on their pieces. Although the loaf was more on the savory than the sweet side, I consider it a success since the little ones pulled it out and snacked on it without me trying to sell it to them first. I think I’ll use this recipe as a seasonal treat and pull it out again next October when the garden offers up its plump, delicious Butternuts.

I’m not sure where Grandma first found this recipe, but I’ll pass it along if you want to try it too. Enjoy!

Prep Time: 15 min.
Total Time: 1 hr  30 min.
Makes: 1 loaf


½ cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
⅓ cup water
1 cup grated Butternut Squash
1¾  flour
1½ cup sugar
¾ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350℉.

In a large bowl, mix together the oil, eggs, water and squash. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and spices. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and stir well to combine. Pour the mixture into a greased loaf pan.

Bake for 75 to 80 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out dry. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan and allowing to cool on a wire rack.

Dad’s Quick EggNog

The same daughter who has a taste for sage, also has a taste for eggnog – not the store-bought kind. Oh no, she likes it freshly made on the stove and served hot. Thankfully, we have a ready supply of fresh eggs for experimenting with and a Dad who likes to cook up tasty creations. Lucky for her and her siblings, Dad can whip up a quick batch of eggnog anytime of the year… even months after eggnog cartons disappear from the grocery store shelves.

Dad likes to up the fun factor of eggnog by serving it with cinnamon sticks so the little ones can use them as straws to slurp up their warm eggnog. We wash these “straws” for future eggnog slurping. If not, we’d be going through cinnamon sticks at too wasteful a rate. We like to enjoy our eggnog during the cold, dark evenings of winter; the tastes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves just seem to fit that somber atmosphere.


4 cups milk
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
4 whole cloves
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ almond extract
¼ cup sugar
3 egg yolks
Cinnamon sticks (optional)

Pour milk into medium-sized saucepan and begin to warm over medium heat. Add the spices to the saucepan and steep for 5 – 10 minutes to blend the flavours, stirring regularly.

In a separate measuring cup, mix ¼ cup sugar with 3 egg yolks. Temper this sugar-egg mix by slowly adding 4 ladlefuls of warmed, steeped milk and whisking constantly*.

Add this tempered egg mixture to the saucepan and whisk constantly until combined. Allow to sit and thicken for 2 minutes.

Serve with cinnamon straws (or not) and enjoy.    

*You want to temper the eggs so it will combine smoothly into your steamed milk. By slowly adding a small amount of warmed milk, and whisking it with the egg, you’ll gradually warm the egg mixture until it is steamy and ready to be added to the warmed saucepan. Failing to temper properly will result in clumps of unappetizing egg floating in your beverage.